Colombian Government Ordered To Protect Forests

Top Court Demands Halt To Amazon Deforestation

By Anastasia Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Colombia’s highest court told the government to take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change.

In their ruling on Thursday, the judges said that Colombia – which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined – saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016.

deforestation and global warming

“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations … that the Colombian state has not efficiently addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.

The ruling comes after a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment.

The plaintiffs had said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.

Bogota-based rights group Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiffs’ case, said the verdict meant it was the first time a lawsuit of this kind had been ruled upon favorably in Latin America.

“The Supreme Court’s decision marks an historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation,” said Camila Bustos, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher at Dejusticia.

In its ruling, the court recognized Colombia’s Amazon as an “entity subject of rights”, which means that the rainforest has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

“The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, and even declares the Amazon a subject of rights,” Bustos said.

The court ordered the government – both at the local and national level – along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

The Amazon’s destruction leads to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults for both present and future generations, the judges said.

The ruling stated that forests were being felled to make way for more grazing and agricultural land, as well as coca crops – the raw ingredient for cocaine – illegal mining and logging.

reforestation and carbon capture

Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, the court said.

“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings in general will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” the ruling said.

The lawsuit follows a surge in litigation around the world demanding action or claiming damages over the impact of climate change – from rising sea levels to pollution.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

Read The Story About Forest Conservation in Colombia.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Shell Unveils Proposal To Tackle Climate Change

Plans To Meet Goals Of Paris Climate Agreement

By Christopher Mooney and Steven Mufson, Washington Post

Royal Dutch Shell just outlined a scenario in which, by 2070, we would be using far less of the company’s own product — oil — as cars become electric, a massive carbon storage industry develops, and transportation begins a shift toward a reliance on hydrogen as an energy carrier.

The company’s Sky scenario was designed to imagine a world that complies with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, managing to hold the planet’s warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. Shell has said that it supports the Paris agreement.

The scenario, which finds the world in a net-zero emissions state by 2070, is based on the idea that “a simple extension of current efforts, whether efficiency mandates, modest carbon taxes, or renewable energy supports, is insufficient for the scale of change required,” the oil company document reads.

“The relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly incentivize investment and innovation.”

The company also cautioned that Sky is only a scenario — a possible future dependent on many assumptions — not a reality that will definitely be realized.

reforestation and carbon capture

Shell is one of the globe’s largest publicly traded oil companies and produced 3.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day last year. But the company’s own recent investments reflect a slight change in focus or, at least, a hedging of its bets. In October, it purchased NewMotion, an electric-vehicle charging company. Shell now operates a small number of stations providing hydrogen fuel to vehicles in the United States and Europe, and is involved in pursuing carbon capture and storage technologies through its Quest project in the Canadian oil sands and the enormous Gorgon project in Australia.

The company has also acquired BG Group, a major natural gas company, as part of placing greater emphasis on producing natural gas, which releases fewer greenhouse gases during combustion than oil or coal. The company is being pressured by some shareholders to do more on climate change, though some investors support the current state of the company.

“Anytime we see a forecast looking out many decades, it can be an interesting talking point but does not seriously influence investor decisions,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at the investment firm Raymond James, said in an email. “Even for long-term-oriented investors, that is simply too distant a time frame.”

Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden in past interviews with The Washington Post has acknowledged that “climate change is real” and that “action is needed” but has asserted that the world will need to keep burning fossil fuels even if renewable energy catapults forward.

“It doesn’t mean we have to kiss hydrocarbons goodbye. In fact, we can’t,” he said.

In November, the company said it would cut the carbon footprint of making (not burning) its own petroleum products by 20 percent by 2035 and by about half by 2050. Shareholder groups, however, have noted that if Shell increases its overall fossil fuel production, then it will undercut some of those gains. Last year, shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by an environmental group calling for Shell to set and publish annual targets to reduce carbon emissions.

In the Sky scenario, the world’s consumption of oil would rise through 2025 before starting to decline. Global oil consumption would begin to drop in 2030 and fall below current levels in 2040.

“Liquid hydrocarbon fuel consumption almost halves between 2020 and 2050 and falls by 90 percent by 2070 in the sector,” the document says.

“It is striking that a company built on energy flow commodities sees them declining permanently after 2040,” said Peter Fox-Penner, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University, in an emailed comment on the scenario.

Other changes are just as massive. Nuclear power would triple, the total use of electricity would expand fivefold, and the world would be equipped with 10,000 carbon capture and storage (CCS) installations.

deforestation and global warming

“The reliance on CCS stands out in Sky, and what surprised me was the rapid decline in natural gas after 2040,” said Morgan Bazilian, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines who studies energy and fossil fuels. “Those are interesting contours, given Shell’s move toward natural gas in the recent past.”

Bazilian praised Shell’s future energy scenarios in general, noting, “In my mind,  Shell has always been a leader in this space, and that is again the case with Sky.”

Molchanov said in an email: “Most of the trends that Shell is describing — with the notable exception of carbon capture — are already commercially viable. Some are in widespread use, while others (e.g., hydrogen in transportation) are in early stages of adoption. But still, extrapolating from current trends a half-century into the future is a textbook example of ‘more art than science.’”

Boston University’s Fox-Penner agreed Shell’s scenario contains the core elements necessary to decarbonize world energy, and that many of the required pieces already exist in some form. But some changes, he said, are a lot harder to accomplish than others, such as cutting emissions in the agricultural sector and from key industrial processes.

“The greatest constraint is certainly not technology, it is political and economic disruption to governments and economies who depend on the current system and who must find the funds to retire a huge capital stock early and rebuild it in place,” he said.

Read the full article about Shell and Sky.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Reforestation, Restoration A Growth Industry

Trees, Forests Undervalued

Approximately 41 million trees are cut down every day—far faster than we are currently replanting them. The consequences of deforestation and other types of land degradation are severe, exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss, and declines in ecosystem services that hundreds of millions of people depend on.

In response, governments around the world have committed to restore 160 million hectares of forests—an area larger than South Africa. But it will take more than government action to execute on these commitments; the private sector has an important role to play, too.

In fact, these commitments are spurring increased demand for companies that can deliver large projects cost-effectively—restoring degraded land has the potential to become a big business opportunity, on top of providing much needed climate mitigation and other ecosystem benefits. Established companies and entrepreneurs alike are finding new ways to make money from sustainably managed forests and farms.

deforestation and climate change

Some are responding to governmental incentives; others are responding directly to the market, restoring land to generate new products and services, or to differentiate their offerings from the competition. Some entrepreneurs are betting that a huge new business opportunity for natural carbon capture and sequestration will emerge as more governments charge a fee for emissions driving climate change.

New research by The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and other partners shows that restoration and other land management improvements could provide more than a third of the emissions reductions necessary to keep global warming under 2°C.

A new report launched today by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that restoring degraded land is not only good for the planet, it’s also a good investment opportunity as well. Through the analysis of 140 restoration-focused businesses in eight countries and four continents, The Business of Planting Trees shows that the economic benefits of restoring land are estimated at $84 billion per year and deliver a range of financial returns.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

This new emerging “restoration economy” represents a wide range of business models and not only brings economic and financial benefits, but also co-benefits including clean water, sustainable agriculture and functioning ecosystems. Reforestation also provides the single largest potential for storing carbon of any land-based natural climate solution. However, there is still a$300 billion shortfall in funding for restoration needed to achieve these outcomes at scale.

The report highlights four promising investment themes – technology, consumer products, project management and commercial forestry and explores how for-profit companies and impact investors can begin to close the financial gap while also turning a profit.

“If we are to be serious about climate change, we have to get serious about investing in nature,” said Justin Adams, Managing Director Global lands for The Nature Conservancy. “The way we manage lands in the future could cost effectively deliver over a third of greenhouse gas emissions reductions required to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.”  

The report authors selected 14 commercial businesses that have restoration at the core of their customer value proposition to highlight the breadth and depth of the restoration economy. Companies ranged from those with over $50 million in sales, to fewer than 10 employees, startups and mature land management organizations in operation for over 40 years. Each business had to meet five specific criteria:

• Profitable: Does the enterprise make money today (or is on track to do so in the future)?

• Scalable: Does the company have the potential to become much bigger than it is today?

• Replicable: Can this concept be replicated in other regions by other businesses?

• Environmental impact: Does the enterprise result in degraded lands being restored?

• Social impact: Does the company have a positive impact on people?

The report found that that investors would like to invest in land restoration, but were unsure of the financial landscape. Commercial investment of restoration has been limited to date, due to lacking proof of concept in new business models, the small deal sizes and future long-term planning of five or more years. The research indicates that business model development has advanced substantially, and rapid growth indicates investment sums may also rise. By presenting real world examples of companies that generate revenues from restoration, investors and entrepreneurs can gain insight into what business models exists, operational setups and how to avoid the early pitfalls. The report authors strongly recommend investors perform their own due diligence.

reforestation and carbon capture

Political commitments like the Paris Climate Accord, the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests present a major opportunity for investment in restoration as countries seek to engage the private sector to help meet their commitments. The report authors hope that this report serves as a starting point for investors to understand the growth opportunity that exists within the restoration economy.

Yet hurdles remain, and one of the biggest is funding. Many investors still know little about restoration opportunities. This report is intended to bridge that information gap; it includes case studies of 14 innovative enterprises across eight countries. They cover a fascinating range of activities, from drones that shoot seeds into hardened soils to genetic research on tree species threatened with extinction.

The restoration economy is at the take-off stage. New business models are emerging, technology is advancing and governments are showing political will. This is great news for investors looking for the next growth opportunity. And this is good news for the planet, since restoring land can provide clean water, improve livelihoods and enhance biodiversity—all while pulling back to the earth excess atmospheric carbon that would otherwise be heating the planet.

Opportunities have never been greater—and the task has never been more urgent. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

Read The Report About Reforestation and Restoration

Malaysia, Indonesia Denounce Ban On Palm Oil In Biofuels

Short-Term Gains Driving Biodiversity Into History

Found in everything from shampoo to donuts, palm oil is now the most common vegetable oil in the world—and also one of the world’s leading deforestation drivers. It’s also being used to fuel our automobiles. The controversial product has given new meaning to the old campaign sloga, “put a tiger in your tank.” In fact, the palm oil industry is driving the highly endangered Sumatran tiger and other species towards extinction.

In defense of our planet’s vanishing biodiversity, European lawmakers approved draft measures last Wednesday to reform the power market there and reduce energy consumption, with the plan including a ban on the use of palm oil in motor fuels starting in 2021.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm producer, said on Monday it would work with other producing countries to voice “strong concerns” to the World Trade Organization, following the European Union’s move to back a ban on using palm oil to make biofuels. Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, joined the outcry against the ban, which is aimed at preserving massive tracts of tropical rainforests and countless endangered species that rely on them for habitat. The palm oil industry alone has caused massive slash and burning of millions of acres of rainforests to create palm oil plantations at the expense of biodiversity and the future of our planet.

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis, which thrives in humid climates. Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce nearly 90 percent of the world’s palm oil, called the move discriminatory and said there should be fair treatment for all vegetable oils.

A large portion of European palm oil imports is used to make biofuels, giving the industry’s top two producers cause for concern as they fear overall demand will fall. Palm oil exports are a key source of revenue for Malaysia and Indonesia. The European Union is their second-biggest market after India.

deforestation climate change

Malaysia’s trade minister called the move a “regressive step which will fuel further uncertainty surrounding global trade,” according to a statement on Monday evening.

“Malaysia will intensify collaboration with other palm oil producing countries to consider more concerted efforts to voice our strong concern before the various committees under the WTO,” said Mustapa Mohamed, minister of international trade and industry, in the statement, adding that the ministry would raise the issue with two committees in March and April.

One huge source of global warming emissions associated with palm oil is the draining and burning of the carbon-rich swamps known as peatlands. Peatlands can hold up to 18 to 28 times as much carbon as the forests above them; when they are drained and burned, both carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere—and unless the water table is restored, peatlands continue to decay and release global warming emissions for decades.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the burning of peatlands releases a dangerous haze into the air, resulting in severe health impacts and significant economic losses. Each year, more than 100,000 deaths in Southeast Asia can be attributed to particulate matter exposure from landscape fires, many of which are peat fires.

Beyond its global warming and human health impacts, palm oil production also takes a toll on biodiversity and human rights. Only about 15 percent of native animal species can survive the transition from primary forest to plantation. Among the species vulnerable to palm oil expansion are orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, and elephants. Furthermore, palm oil growers have also been accused of using forced labor, seizing land from local populations, and other human rights abuses.

palm oil and orangutans

The impacts of palm oil production have begun to draw a response from both governments and the private sector in recent years.

There has been significant movement from Southeast Asian governments to address palm oil impacts, though there is still much to be done. In 2010, Indonesia established a moratorium on new concessions for oil palm, timber and logging operations on primary forests and peatlands. In addition, Indonesia has responded to worsening haze conditions by calling for a halt to clearance and drainage of peatlands, and for the restoration of those already drained. Malaysia has also begun to act to protect some of its forests, though its protections thus far have not been as strong as Indonesia’s.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

On the private-sector side, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)was formed to bring oil producers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders together to improve the sustainability of palm oil production. However, current RSPO standards fall short in important respects. For instance, while primary forests are protected under RSPO regulations, secondary, disturbed, or regenerating forests are left unprotected. Peatlands are also given limited protection under RSPO guidelines. So “RSPO-certified” does not necessarily mean “deforestation-free.”

PR firm climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

REDD+ Offers Hope In Battle Against Deforestation

Innovative Conservation Models Can Refine REDD+

In December 2015, with the signing of the Paris Agreement, the nations of the world reached agreement on a historic, collective and comprehensive approach to combat climate change. The primary goal of the agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and try to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C. Within that agreement is a recognition of the critical role of forests, including actions to halt and reverse the rate of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which have contributed up to 20 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

deforestation and global warming

To assist countries in these actions, the agreement includes a framework of policies and incentives for reducing deforestation and forest degradation and increasing carbon storage in forests through conservation and sustainable management. This is known as REDD+.

REDD+ has evolved over a decade of discussions, research and negotiations to become a key piece of the newly adopted climate architecture. It is flexible by design, as it recognizes the significant differences across countries in terms of societal and governance structures, histories, laws, economies, and ecological and environmental factors. It is intended to support the necessary economic transitions and shifts to sustainable landscape management as part of a country’s low carbon development. To ensure that it contributes to the environmental integrity of the climate regime, REDD+ requires a national commitment—not isolated projects. No more foundational decisions are needed for REDD+ to be fully implemented.

The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 solidified the foundation for REDD+. The agreement referenced, in a single paragraph, the entire body of decisions, including the objectives, rules, guidelines and guiding principles for REDD+. The focus now is on actions to implement and support REDD+ initiatives. To do so, a solid understanding of REDD+ and the Paris Agreement is needed. We must understand what REDD+ is, in a manner that is accessible to policy makers, scientists and civil society and in a form that is completely consistent with the UNFCCC decisions and agreements.

The broad intent of REDD+ is to help countries shift to low-emissions development pathways by increasing the value of healthy forests relative to other land uses.

Greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high. If emissions are not reduced, it will be nearly impossible to hold global warming to below 2 degrees C. One of the best ways to address this challenge is to keep trees standing, as healthy forests are one of the largest store houses of carbon. And unhealthy forests—those that have been degraded or deforested—are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, after the burning of fossil fuels.

reforestation and climate change

An approach called REDD+ is one of the most promising means for keeping trees standing in developing countries. “REDD” stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.” The thought leaders behind REDD+ agreed that incentives are necessary not only to reduce emissions by tackling the drivers of forest loss, but also to avoid emissions and increase storage by taking proactive measures to conserve and restore forests.

The aim of REDD+ is to slowly halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss in developing countries. The broad intent of REDD+ is to help countries shift to low-emissions development pathways by increasing the value of healthy forests relative to other land uses. Achieving and sustaining the objectives of REDD+ requires the transformation of economic activities within and outside of the forests, often referred to as the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

REDD+ was born in 2005 but its importance was not fully and formally recognized until December 2015, when the 197 parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement—a landmark global pact to curb climate change. Recognizing REDD+ in the Paris Agreement was seen as a means to highlight and validate the system of incentives for developing countries to conserve forests in the context of poverty reduction and economic development. It also filled a gap left by the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005.

Prior to the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol was the main tool to achieve the objective of the UNFCCC–reducing greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. However, the protocol did not include emissions caused by the unsustainable exploitation and destruction of forests in developing countries. With the Paris Agreement in place, REDD+ is now a key piece of the new climate architecture adopted by every country in the world. No additional foundational decisions are needed for REDD+ to be fully implemented. The focus now is on implementation and support of REDD+.

reforestation and carbon capture

REDD+ In A Nutshell

REDD+ is a voluntary approach for developing countries and includes five activities:

  •  Reduce emissions from deforestation;
  • Reduce emissions from forest degradation;
  • Conserve forest carbon stocks;
  • Sustainably manage forests; and
  • Enhance forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ includes four components:

  • A national strategy or action plan;
  • A national forest reference level as the basis for accounting the results of REDD+ activities;
  • A national forest monitoring system; and
  • A system for reporting how all of the REDD+ social and environmental safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the activities.

Countries implementing REDD+ pass three phases:

  • The development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures, and capacity-building;
  • The implementation of national policies and measures, as well as national strategies or action plans, that could involve capacity building, technology development and transfer, and results based demonstration activities; and
  • Results-based actions that should be fully measured, reported and verified.

Financial support for REDD+ may come from a variety of sources, such as the public and private sectors and bilateral and multilateral agreements. This funding may include payments for emissions reductions achieved through the implementation of REDD+ activities. These are called results-based payments.

How are unintended negative social and environmental impacts avoided?

The 2010 Cancun Agreements established a set of seven social and environmental safeguards when implementing REDD+ activities, as well as guidance for systems to provide information on how countries are implementing the safeguards. Countries should start providing a summary of that safeguard information to the UNFCCC once they begin implementing REDD+ activities and periodically, thereafter.

deforestation Tanzania and Kenya

Doing so is a means for reducing or eliminating the potential negative impacts REDD+ could have on social and environmental values, beyond GHG emissions and associated climate change. The social safeguards promote and support good governance, respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous people and members of local communities, and the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders in the development and implementation of REDD+ activities. The environmental safeguards promote and support the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity. This helps ensure that REDD+ actions are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are, instead, used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, as well as to enhance other social and environmental benefits.

The 2015 Paris Agreement highlights the role forests and other carbon stores (known as “sinks and reservoirs”) should play in meeting global and national climate change mitigation goals. In particular, Article 5 of the agreement highlights the role of forests in curbing climate change and effectively recognizes all of the existing guidance for REDD+ previously agreed to by the COP. This article states that all nations should take action to conserve and enhance the role of “sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases,” which include biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems.62 Nations are encouraged to take action to implement and support the existing REDD+ framework as set out in related guidance and decisions.63 This can be done in several ways, including through results-based payments. As specified in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, REDD+ activities will also contribute to the goal of achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Natural Systems The Best Defense Against Climate Change

Study Highlights Ecosystems As Key Strategy

Though his business card says Director of Forest Carbon Science at The Nature Conservancy, Bronson Griscom introduces himself as an ecological accountant. Griscom radiates an optimism somewhat rare in seasoned environmentalists, especially when he discusses the “carbon economy” of nature: the everyday role that trees, grasslands and coastal habitats play in the carbon cycle. Griscom can measure the carbon impact of logging in old growth forests, or how well different forest ecosystems work as sinks for absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. He helps link our economy with the economy of the biosphere.

In recent decades, forest use—Griscom’s area of expertise—has been widely studied for its climate impacts. Forest loss accounts for 8 to 10 percent of carbon emissions globally; tropical rainforests like the Amazon have become almost synonymous with land conservation, largely because they work as massive carbon sinks and are home to many of the world’s indigenous people and endangered species.

deforestation and climate change

But other global ecosystems and managed lands—from farmlands and peatlands to seagrass and tidal marshes—have garnered less attention from climate regulators, both as a source of emissions and a potential mitigation solution. In fact, until recently no one had ever integrated the raw data on all the carbon that all ecosystems were already sequestering, and what the potential was for increasing carbon storage among all these habitats together, as Griscom and his team studied.

“I thought we would review a few papers and take an average to answer the question,” he says. “We were shocked to find that important gaps remained in answering the question: how much can lands contribute to solving climate change? So we took it upon ourselves to convene a large group of scientists across 15 research institutions to take a comprehensive look at this question.”

Answering that question became the highest priority for Bronson’s team, and the foundation for what has become the most comprehensive study on the role that nature can play in keeping global temperature increases to 2°C or below. They found that, with the right management, nature can play a bigger role than we realized.

Natural climate solutions offer up to 37% of the mitigation needed between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2°C.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

The paper offers a comprehensive roadmap for reducing carbon emissions through nature. The study is the culmination of a partnership between the Conservancy and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that brought together more than two-dozen leading natural scientists and economists from fifteen research, educational and private institutions around the world.

The land-use sector is currently responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. But this new study shows that this could change—and with concerted global action on land use over the next decade, nature can be a significant part of the climate solution.

The analysis found that the total biophysical potential for natural climate solutions while still taking account of food production needs is as much as 23.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year—approximately 30 percent more than previous, less comprehensive estimates.

In addition, the study’s economic analyses show that half of these natural climate solutions (11.3 billion tons CO2e) offer cost-effective mitigation opportunities, because they cost less than the future impacts of climate change, expected to cost society more than $100 per ton of CO2 in the atmosphere. These cost-effective NCS mitigation options offer up to 37 percent of mitigation needed between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2°C —the widely recognized target of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Pathways to Natural Climate Solutions

To synthesize the research, Griscom and his team developed a framework to distill the world’s “natural climate solutions”—the proven ways of storing and reducing carbon emissions in forests, grasslands (including agricultural and rangelands) and wetlands—into a taxonomy of 20 specific pathways that account for the full climate potential of nature.

In addition to covering three biomes, the pathways also look at different practices across a variety of economic scenarios that mitigate climate change, including the implementation of low-cost opportunities only ($10 per tonne CO2e or less).

Another striking aspect of these pathways is the additional benefits they provide. Most nature climate solutions—if effectively implemented—also offer water filtration, flood buffering, improved soil health, protection of biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience.

“The approach is synergistic,” says Justin Adams, managing director for Global Lands at the Nature Conservancy. “We can hit multiple targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals if we get this right.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

There is, however, a catch: The world must act soon.

Assuming current business-as-usual trajectories, increased emissions entering the atmosphere, coupled with continued environmental degradation, will lessen the impact that nature can have. If natural climate solutions are mobilized over the next 10 to 15 years, they could provide 37 percent of the needed mitigation for global climate targets. But if action is delayed until after 2030, that number drops to 33 percent, and drops again to only 22 percent after 2050.

Over the past two years, the world experienced unprecedented global climate momentum. In September 2015, international leaders adopted the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to fight poverty, promote sustainability and address climate change. Shortly after, nearly 200 countries came together in Paris to adopt the world’s largest ever international climate treaty.

And despite recent setbacks, including the United States announcing its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, many countries have moved forward implementing voluntary measures to limit emissions. And while natural climate solutions are part of many countries’ pledges, there remains a gap between promised action and realized climate progress.

“Natural climate solutions are available now, are cost effective and greatly benefit communities,” said Justin Adams.

As they are currently written, the Paris Agreement pledges still fall short, likely keeping warming around 4°C. Every five years, international representatives and negotiators will meet to ramp up ambition, but the current timeline for countries to end their reliance on fossil fuels while still maintaining development and economic growth does not align with what is needed to achieve climate stability. Barring a technological miracle, the world likely needs more time than it realistically has to move to full economic decarbonization.

“There’s a growing recognition that to get to below 2°C, we need to actively drawdown carbon from the atmosphere,” Adams says. “And while there’s lots of interest and investment in new technology solutions to capture and store carbon, this is new, experimental technology. Trees and other plants, meanwhile have already perfected this process over hundreds of millions of years of evolution—we’re unlikely to see a better carbon capture and storage technology than that which nature provides.”

deforestation and biodiversity

This makes the findings from the 20 pathways particularly important: they provide a scalable near-term option that, combined with fossil fuel emission reductions, can put the planet on a 2° path by 2030. If world leaders hold off on concurrently investing in nature now, emerging technology will have to play an exponentially larger role in reducing emissions later on. “That’s a gamble on the future that can be prevented today,” Adams says.

“The rapid deployment of clean energy technologies currently being witnessed is truly inspiring, and we absolutely must press forward with the deployment of renewables, electric cars, energy efficiency and other methods for fossil fuel reduction,” Adams adds. “But we also need to see a similar level of investment in natural solutions, which are available now, are cost effective and greatly benefit communities.”

Read The Full Story at Climate Change News via Nature

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Ecosystems Collapsing In Face Of Climate Change

Millions Of Lives Depend On Ecosystems Under Siege

Some of the world’s most iconic ecosystems are collapsing due to climate change and human encroachment, which, in turn, is contributing to more climate change. Collapse of one ecosystem will contribute to the collapse of the next. As human refugees escape one danger zone, they will contribute to the creation of the next collapse. It’s a very high stakes version of the domino effect. Momentum is the enemy.

The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is under assault from ocean acidification. The Amazon rainforest has been suffering from deforestation for years and now a wicked drought is adding to the momentum of its downfall, while threatening the lives of millions of people downstream. To combat such climate-related threats, we need to stop the encroachment and expedite the healing, according to findings published in the journal Science.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

“We show that managing local pressures can expand the ‘safe operating space’ for these ecosystems. Poor local management makes an ecosystem less tolerant to climate change and erodes its capacity to keep functioning effectively,” the study’s lead author Marten Scheffer, chair of the Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, said in a press release.

The research team examined Spain’s Doñana wetlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. While many ecosystems are indeed important to the environment and to their local people, these ecosystems in particular have a global importance.

Coral reefs have gained a lot of attention recently due to the effect of ocean acidification – the increase in acidic waters due to buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide – that have led to extensive bleaching events. Worse still, studies have shown that ocean acidification is eating away at the structural integrity of these unique marine animals, causing coral to become more susceptible to both predators and disease.

In fact, the Great Barrier Reef’s growth rate has plummeted by 40 percent since the mid-1970s.

But overfishing, nutrient runoff and unprecedented amounts of dredging are exacerbating these climate change-related threats. By eliminating these stressors, the Great Barrier Reef may have a chance in our warming world.

However, like corals reefs, rainforests and wetlands around the world are also under increasing pressure from both climate change and local threats.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

Such local threats include nutrient runoff from the use of agricultural fertilizers and urban wastewater, which is degrading water quality in the Doñana wetlands in southern Spain. This, in turn, is causing toxic algal blooms that endanger the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

A warming climate could encourage more severe blooms, causing losses of biodiversity, researchers say. This ecosystem is a vital wintering site for waterfowl – hosting over half a million birds – and home to numerous unique invertebrate and plant species.

“Local managers could lessen this risk and therefore boost the wetlands’ climate resilience by reducing nutrient runoff,” explained co-author Andy Green, a professor at the Doñana Biological Station.

To reduce nutrient runoff, he added, managers could reduce fertilizer use, improve water treatment plants, and close illegal wells that are decreasing the flow of clean water to these wetlands.

When it comes to the Amazon rainforest, rising temperatures and severe dry spells, along with deforestation, are major threats to its survival.

This deadly combination could turn the ecosystem into dry, fire-prone and species-poor woodland. The United Nations has pledged to end deforestation completely by 2030, which no doubt would help. But researchers also recommend curtailing canopy damage from logging and speeding up forest regeneration. These management efforts could protect the forest from fire and maintain regional rainfall, helping the Amazon to thrive and better resist climate change.

deforestation and climate change

“Local management options are well understood and not too expensive. So there is really no excuse for countries to let this slip away, especially when it comes to ecosystems that are of vital importance for maintaining global biodiversity,” Scheffer pointed out.

“All three examples play a critical role in maintaining global biodiversity. If these systems collapse,” he added, “it could mean the irreversible extinction of species.”

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Agriculture A Major Contributor To Deforestation, Climate Change

Soil Depletion Releasing Carbon Into Atmosphere

By Ellen Wulfhorst, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

deforestation and climate change

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said. Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified. The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

Read The Full Story About Agriculture and Climate Change.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Palm Oil Producers, Buyers Still Blowing Smoke

World Economic Forum Promoting New Avenues

Palm oil is the fastest-growing commodity on the planet. Sales are expected to exceed $88 billion by 2022. Unfortunately, the industry and its supporters are still blowing smoke about deforestation, biodiversity and climate change. There’s a better way forward and we can help make it a reality.

Palm oil is one of the most controversial commodities. It’s driving deforestation on a massive scale across Southeast Asia, South America and Africa. Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, land-use change and wildlife extinction.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil. Approximately 45 million acres of land in Indonesia has been licensed for palm oil development. Unfortunately, licenses mean very little in the land of smoke and mirrors. Even protected areas, such as the Leuser National Park, are under siege. RSPO members aren’t defending biodiversity or the forests. They only protect themselves from the truth.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Palm oil is derived from the fruit harvested from date palm trees. Presently, more than 95 percent of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is marketed as a low-cost form of vegetable oil. It’s used in the majority of consumer goods, including food and personal products, such as lotion and soaps. It’s also marketed as a biofuel. Multinational corporations, including Unilever, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Ferrero and many others are under fire from customers and stockholders for supporting deforestation. These companies and the palm oil industry have gone to great lengths for years to cover their tracks and green wash their supply chain with claims of so-called sustainable palm oil. There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. It’s no more sustainable than crude oil or coal.

The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004 following a series of meetings between WWF and palm oil companies. According to WWF, “One of the huge successes of the Roundtable is the development of a certification system for sustainable palm oil.” Unfortunately, that certification system was riddled with fraud and abuse. It’s a label bought not earned.

In 2015, a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Grassroots exposed serious problems in the RSPO certification system. Auditing firms that are supposed to monitor palm oil companies’ operations are colluding with the companies to hide violations.

The latest trend is called Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Call it what you will—palm oil plantations and biodiversity do not mix. Animals that enter palm oil plantations are killed. In many cases, bounties have been put on endangered orangutans, elephants and Sumatran tigers. Indonesia has already pushed two tiger species into extinction. The Sumatran tiger could easily follow the Java tiger and Bali tiger into the history books thanks to an industry with no reverence or conscience.

deforestation and climate change

In 2013, Greenpeace produced a report titled “Certifying Destruction,” which highlighted some of the tactics being used to shield the truth about this massive industry. A similar report came out again in 2015 by EIA. In a similar vein, PepsiCo recently released a report in an attempt to cover its tracks. Rainforest Action Network pounced on the report this week as another attempt to cover up the blood in its supply chain.

A report released by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in April 2017, titled “Profits over People and the Planet, Not ‘Performance with Purpose’; Exposing PepsiCo’s Real Agenda,” revealed PepsiCo’s connections to Conflict Palm Oil suppliers, which are driving deforestation, climate emissions, and human and labor rights abuses across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Latin America. Today’s release by PepsiCo lacks a meaningful response to the issues raised in RAN’s report.

“PepsiCo’s latest “Palm Oil Action Plan Progress Report” is a masterful attempt to window dress its lack of progress in addressing the systemic environmental and human rights violations in its palm oil supply chain and in the operations of its joint venture partner Indofood. In the real world, forests continue to fall and workers continue to be exploited for the production of palm oil used in PepsiCo’s products.

“While PepsiCo openly acknowledges in its report that deforestation and labor rights violations are rampant in the palm oil industry, the company has once again failed to set a deadline to end these abuses in its own supply chains,” said Robin Averbeck, Senior Campaigner of RAN. “Instead, PepsiCo hides behind false claims of sustainability made by the RSPO––the same certification system that has continued to certify its controversial partner Indofood, despite its ongoing exploitation of workers exposed by RAN, Indonesian labor rights organization OPPUK, and International Labor Rights Forum in June 2016.”

orangutan conservation

“PepsiCo needs to stop the corporate greenwash and stop rainforest destruction and the violation of workers and communities’ rights in its supply chain and the plantations controlled by its partner Indofood. Until it does so, PepsiCo and its financial backers will be exposed to campaigns that demand real outcomes on the ground.”

The palm oil industry and its pimps throughout the supply chain, including the RSPO, continue throwing misinformation into the market to placate investors, wholesale buyers and consumers of products that contain palm oil. Meanwhile, RSPO members continue to rape and pillage virgin rain forests and peat lands as they produce more than half of global palm oil supplies.

European nations are threatening to ban palm oil as a “renewable biofuel” in an attempt to reduce demand and force meaningful changes in the palm oil industry. Indonesia and Malaysia are digging in to keep palm oil production and consumption at an all-time high. The industry accounts for billions of dollars per year for the countries’ tycoons and cronies.

As all of this fraud indicates, the palm oil industry and palm oil buyers are desperately seeking solutions, while deforestation and its contribution to wildlife extinction continue. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the push to get commodity producers, including beef and soy, out of the world’s last rain forests represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity. The good news is that an alternative production model exists that isn’t dependent on rain forest destruction.

palm oil and orangutans

Cities around the world in the tropics, subtropics and deserts represent a powerful opportunity to expand the footprint of palm oil production, while promoting urban agroforestry, sustainability, resiliency and economic development. It can also cut shipping costs by decentralizing the production so that it’s closer to the buyers, such as PepsiCo and others. It’s a win-win opportunity for all stakeholders and stockholders. We need a leader to step forward to demonstrate the benefits of urban agroforestry. It’s a deforestation-free production model that offers valuable benefits.

This initiative will make cities more productive, livable, sustainable and resilient. Some of the new palm trees can help combat the urban heat island effect on our streets and highways. Others can reduce energy demands by sheltering homes, schools and office buildings. Strategically placed trees also can shade parks, golf courses, parks, school grounds and rooftops, while absorbing and sequestering tons of carbon dioxide. Farms and ranches will have an incentive to line their fence lines with a new cash crop. Most importantly, we can create jobs, educational opportunities and sustainable palm oil worth millions of dollars every year just by being resourceful and innovative.

Deforestation and Biodiversity News

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Orangutan Conservationists Can’t Stop Deforestation

Sustainable Palm Oil Wiping Out Biodiversity

A population trend analysis of Bornean orangutans reveals that, despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly – at a rate of 25 percent over the past 10 years.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician and researcher at the ARC Centre of Centre for Environmental Decisions (CEED), led the study on the critically endangered Bornean orangutans.

Analyses show declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 percent.

Every year US$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organizations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent.

deforestation and climate change

Dr Santika said, for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to accurately assess.

“Our study used advanced modeling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” Dr Santika said.

CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson said the new approach facilitated the break-through and, for the first time, enabled researchers to determine population trends of the species over time.

She described the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, as “a wake-up call” for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species.

One of the study’s initiators, UQ Honorary Professor Erik Meijaard said that the study’s worrying outcomes suggested the need to fundamentally rethink orangutan conservation strategies.

“The biggest threats of habitat loss and killing are not effectively addressed, despite government commitments through national action plans,” he said.

“The focus of orangutan conservation is on rescues and rehabilitation, but that only addresses the symptoms and not the underlying problem.”

According to Dr Marc Ancrenaz, a Sabah-based orangutan scientist and contributor to the study, there is hope for orangutans, despite the negative trends that the study demonstrates.

palm oil and orangutans

“As we learn more about orangutans we come to understand that the species is ecologically much more versatile than previously thought,” he said.

“Orangutans can survive in multifunctional landscapes, which includes plantations and agricultural lands. But they are very slow breeders and much more needs to be done to reduce killing rates.”

Previous studies have indicated up to 2,500 orangutans are killed annually on Borneo in conflict situations or by hunters looking for food, explaining a considerable part of the orangutan’s decline.

“Inappropriate land use planning is another major factor,” Professor Meijaard said.

“For example, 10,000 orangutans presently occur in areas that have been allocated by national and local governments to oil palm development.

“If these areas are converted to plantations without changes in current practices, most of these animals will be destroyed and the steep population decline is likely to continue.

palm oil plantation deforestation

“Viable populations of large roaming animals such as the orangutan require a network of protected forests that are properly managed, and sustainable practices outside of these protected areas.”

Biodiversity News via University of Queensland.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.